Women of Gambling

Pansy Ho

pansy-ho-300x209Pansy Ho has several nicknames, including the ‘Queen of Gambling’, but is not so much a gambler as a facilitator of gambling insofar as she is co-chairperson and executive director of MGM China Holdings, which owns the MGM Macau luxury resort, hotel and casino on the Macau peninsula. Ho is the eldest daughter of retired casino tycoon Stanley Ho, a.k.a. the ‘King of Gambling’, but was thrust into the spotlight, in her own right, when she opened the MGM Macau, as a joint venture with MGM Resorts International, formerly MGM Mirage, in December, 2007.

Although born, in her own words, ‘with a silver gambling chip in my mouth’, Ho has proved herself a shrewd, ambitious and determined businesswoman. She is by no means a ‘figurehead’, financially dependent on her father – who is believed, by many, to be connected to organised crime syndicates – and thereby ‘vulnerable to his potential influence and control’, as was suggested by a report issued by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 2009. With a net worth of HK$36.1 billion, or US$4.6 billion, Pansy Ho would appear to be the natural heir to the Ho empire, but Stanley Ho has fathered no fewer than 17 children, so sibling rivalry over control of the business seems likely to continue for a while yet.

Virginia McDowell

Virginia-McDowell-300x179Formerly President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc, Virginia McDowell is a luminary in the gaming industry. A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, just after gambling was legalised in New Jersey, McDowell boasts 35 years’ experience in the casino industry and has received several prestigious awards, not least being named Gaming Executive of Year by ‘Casino Journal’ in 2009.

Having retired from Capri Casinos in 2016 – as the first, and only, president and CEO of a major, publicly-traded gaming company – McDowell serves a president and chairwoman of the not-for-profit organisation Global Gaming Women, which seeks to further the cause of women in the gaming industry. In 2018, she was also appointed independent, non-executive director of the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) -listed sports betting company GVC Holdings, with a view to expanding its U.S. operations. Casinos are big business worldwide now of course, from Kasinot ilman rekisteröitymistä to just about every location you might care to think of.

Now in the veteran stage of her career, McDowell is still revered throughout the gaming industry, and beyond, for her innovative thinking, leadership and communication skills. She is renowned for her unique perspective on the gaming industry and is, consequently, frequently called upon by academic, civic and organisations as a keynote speaker, moderator or panellist.

Eleanor Dumont

eleanor-dumontEleanor Dumont, also known as ‘Madame Moustache’ because of a growth of dark facial hair on her upper lip in later life, was a notorious, if slightly mysterious, gambler in the American Old West. Born Simone Jules in 1829, Dumont claimed to be a French refugee, but may have hailed from somewhere in the Mississippi Delta, possibly New Orleans. In any event, during the California Gold Rush, or shortly afterwards, Dumont had the resources to open her own gambling establishment, ‘Vingt-et-un’ – billed as the ‘best gambling emporium in northern California’ – on Broad Street, Nevada City.

Later, she sold the business and travelled from one boom town to the next, setting up gambling tables in hotels throughout the West. After a few years, she met, and married, Jack McKnight, a cattleman and small-time gambler, and together they bought a cattle ranch in Carson City, Nevada. However, after a few months, McKnight sold the ranch and disappeared, leaving Dumont destitute. She eventually ended up in Bodie, California – billed as ‘the toughest town in the West’ – where, having borrowed $300 to set up a gambling table, she proceeded to lose every cent and committed suicide shortly afterwards.

Lottie Deno

Lottie_Deno-180x300Lottie Deno, otherwise known as ‘Lottie Dinero’ or simply ‘The Poker Queen’ – her real name was believed to be Carlotta Thompkins – was an infamous female gambler in the American Old West. Born in Kentucky in 1844, Deno was introduced to gambling by her father – a wealthy tobacco plantation owner and racehorse breeder – at an early age. By the age of 16 she was already a skilled card player and, two years later, following the death of her father in the American Civil War, was sent to Detroit, Michigan in search of better opportunities.

In Detroit, Deno met Johnny Golden, a jockey who had ridden for her father, and together they worked their trade on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers until 1863, when they went their separate ways with a view to reuniting in San Antonio, Texas at a later date. Reunite they did, but not until six years later, by which time Deno was a house gambler at the University Club and had met Frank Thurmond, whose family owned the establishment.

Thurmond subsequently killed a man during a card game and headed to Fort Griffin, in West Texas, where he was joined by Deno, who became a house gambler at the Bee Hive Saloon. In that capacity, she once reputedly won $3,000 from John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday and, in so doing, provided the inspiration for the fictional character Laura Denbow, played by the ‘Queen of Technicolor’, Rhonda Fleming, in the 1957 film ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’.

Maria Gertrudis Barcelo

Maria-Gertrudis-Barcelo-300x171Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, otherwise known as ‘Doña Tules’, ‘Madame La Tules’ or simply ‘La Tules’, was one of the most infamous women in the history of New Mexico. Born in the Mexican state of Sonora in 1800, Barcelo moved north to the village of Tome in what is now New Mexico, but at the time was part of Mexico, with her family in 1821. She married late, by traditional standards, at the age of 23; two years later, in 1825, she and her husband, Manuel Antonio Sisneros, established a gambling operation at a mining camp in the Ortiz Mountains, near Santa Fe.

A decade or so later, Barcelo bought a lavish gambling hall and saloon on Burro Alley in Santa Fe, aptly named Barcelo Palace, which soon became a favourite with the fashionable society of the regional capital of Nuevo Mejico. No mean gambler herself, Barcelo was particularly skilled at Monte – a card game played with the traditional Baraja española or ‘Spanish deck’ – and reputedly made vast sums of money from her clientele. During the Mexican-American War, from 1846 to 1848, U.S. forces occupied Santa Fe and, paradoxically, while acknowledging Barcelo for her influence on the local population and even accepting her offers of financial support, treated her with a level of contempt.